A few weeks ago I hosted a wine tasting at the California Shakespeare Festival that featured a few of our latest arrivals from Argentina. I poured a couple of red wines made from the Malbec grape and a white Torrontes. Judging from the pleasantly surprised responses (smiles, happy oohs and aahs, requests for seconds) many of you have yet to try the numerous new wines from Argentina. I only recently started buying Argentine and Chilean wine for our store, but I have been very pleased with the wines in general and am happy to continue my research in order to bring you the very best of the overwhelming array of brands and styles now finding their way to our shores.
At The Spanish Table in Berkeley I’m adding a new display rack and reorganizing a bit to make room for more wines from South America, so if you have not yet had an opportunity to experience these new red, white and rosado wines, now is your chance.
This week, in addition to our latest arrivals from Spain, we are featuring a handful of new arrivals from Argentina’s Finca Carlos Pulenta. The Tomero and Vistalba wines are excellent examples of contemporary Argentine wine making.
Food-wise, the center of a big Argentine meal is usually grilled meat in its many forms, though beef will certainly play a leading role. If a multi course meal comprised of steaks, chops, sausages and organ meats seems a bit too carnivorous for you, perhaps the following recipe adapted from Argentina Cooks! By Shirley Lomax Brooks ($24.95) will add balance to your meal:
Tomates Rellenos – Tuna and Vegetable Stuffed Tomatoes (serves 4)
4 large ripe tomatoes
2 large tins (12 ounces) Spanish Bonito del Norte Tuna
2 cups cooked vegetables, any combination of peas, carrots, green beans, corn kernels and lima beans
½ cup Delouis brand Aioli
Dash of Piri Piri pepper sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 green onions chopped
2 teaspoons fresh parsley, cilantro or dill
Make the tomato shells by cutting the tops off tomatoes and carefully scooping out the pulp and seeds. Drain the tuna and mix with your choice of vegetables and the aioli. Stir in Piri Piri, garlic, onions and green herbs. Fill the tomato halves with the shrimp salad and chill briefly before serving.
Now, on to the wine!
Tomero Torrontes 2006 $15.99 Produced in the Cafayate Valley in the Northern Argentine province of Salta, this aromatic white wine will charm you with scents of orange blossom, crane melon and white peach. The rich aromas add depth to the dry, mineral background and bright apricot-like fruit character of the wine.
Lagar de Cervera 2006 $20.99 From the producers of La Rioja Alta red wines comes the newest vintage of this always excellent Albariño which is bold and ripe, with fine minerality, medium body, and loads of tropical fruit.
Aforado 2005 $11.99 In D.O. Rías Baixas, the Albariño grape is King, but in the O Rosal sub-zone (where Aforado comes from) other grapes such as Treixadura and Loureira also share center stage. The end result of all this blending is a white wine with more peach and pear aromas and flavors than the typical flinty, citrusy Albariño wines. At this price, Aforado makes an excellent choice for buying by the case.
Tomero Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 $16.99 In the Mendoza region of Argentina vineyards grow in the dessert climate thanks to a controlled system of irrigation channels. Tomero is the title given to the vineyard worker in charge of water distribution. Tomero Cabernet is a rich red wine produced from estate grown fruit from the Valle de Uco region within Mendoza. Dark Garnet color and black cherry aroma lead to dry tannins and black currant fruit character. The whole ensemble is balanced and well integrated which lends a certain elegance to the wine.
Tomero Malbec 2004 $16.99 The Malbec grapes for this wine are, like the Cabernet, sourced from estate vineyards in the Valle de Uco region. Steel tank fermentation (i.e. no oak) allows the bold fruit character of the wine to predominate. Spicy background notes add complexity. This youthful red is ripe, but not ‘over the top’ as some other Malbec wines can be.
Vistalba Corte-C 2004 $11.99 This blend of estate grown Malbec (85%) and Merlot (15%), grown in the Luján de Cuyo region of Mendoza is aged, in part, in oak barrels for 12 months prior to bottling, then the bottled wine is aged for another 6 months before sale. Dark plum color and spicy oak aroma adds depth to the plum-like fruit character. This ripe, smooth red wine will pair well with cookout fare as well as more elaborate meat-centric preparations.
Can Blau 2005 $17.99 We’re back in Spain now. This D.O. Montsant wine has been getting lots of positive feedback from customers. Josh Raynolds reviewed this blend of 50% Cariñena, 35% Syrah and 15% Garnacha wine for Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar and rated it 90 Points. His description matches mine, but his wording is better. He said: “Bright ruby. Focused, fresh and brisk on the nose, with energetic cherry and candied licorice aromas. Intense mineral notes add complexity and depth to the explosive blackberry and cherry fruit, with notes of candied violet and rose coming up on the back. Finishes with superb intensity and length. An excellent value, and built for cellaring.”